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Help Save Aquinas and More

My dear friends and customers,

I write to you today with some news. As most of you know by now, after more than 10 years of business, Aquinas and More Catholic Goods announced it would be closing at the end of February. Admittedly, this was not an easy decision for us at all.

A funny thing happened on the way to the closing: the outpouring of support for Aquinas and More from our customers, our friends, and fellow Catholics was a bit unexpected, but also very kind and rather humbling.

To tell you the truth, it made us take pause and prayerfully consider what we should do next. Our heads tell us that we cannot realistically continue in our present state of affairs. Yet our hearts tell us that the void in Catholic shopping and Catholic service left by the closing of Aquinas and More is also real. We’ve always felt that Aquinas and More was truly a mission. So, are we being called to continue? Are we not? I know what I want, but I also know that — more importantly — I want God’s Will.

To better discern our next step, we’ve decided to launch an “all-or-nothing” crowdfunding campaign over the next two weeks, so we can return Aquinas and More to its mission of serving others with our authentic Catholic online shopping experience. The campaign begins today, March 5,  and ends on March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph. We’ve named it the “Aquinas Angels” campaign.

Our goal is to raise $250,000 in two weeks. At this point, we need to replenish inventory, overhaul the website and messaging, and focus on retaining excellent Catholic customer service and results. We know it’s a big number. But we also know that we have more than 30,000 Facebook and Twitter fans, and over the last decade, we’ve served more than 200,000 customers. We have been richly blessed. So we have joy and hope, gaudium et spes.

Dear friends, I ask you first to pray for our campaign. We will be praying the Saint Michael the Archangel prayer daily for this endeavor. Will you pray too? Second, please take a moment to visit our “Aquinas Angels” site, where you can read more about what brought us to where we are right now and what our plans for the future entail. You can visit the site at: http://www.gofundme.com/aquinasangels
I want you to know that if we don’t reach our goal, your Angel donation will not be processed. It’s as simple as that – it’s all-or-nothing. We will not be benefiting from any support until and unless our goal is reached. And if we don’t reach it, Aquinas and More will be in serious jeopardy. So, our next step is in His hands. If you choose to join us, we have different levels of support, and will be “giving back” for your generosity.

I also ask you to please help us spread the word about our “Aquinas Angels” . With the relationships we’ve built over the years, I firmly believe this is a “We” Campaign. We can’t succeed without your help! If you would like the work of Aquinas and More to continue, if you have had a positive experience with us, please share our story, our site, and your story out there with others you know.

Aquinas and More is truly not just a Catholic store. Aquinas and More is a way of life for myself, for my wife, for my ten children. We are unabashedly and authentically Catholic in all that we do – our policies, our products, and our outreach projects. You know the value of our Good Faith Guarantee.

As part of the Year of Faith, we are called to deepen our faith, believe in the Gospel message, and go forth and proclaim the Gospel. That is the essence of Aquinas and More. Giving to our “Aquinas Angels” Campaign means helping to build and restore an authentic Catholic culture. I know in my heart that there’s nowhere else out there where you can find such a ministry and mission – a living and serving, Catholic approach to shopping. I’m willing to put myself out there like this to keep it going.

We would be honored and grateful if you can become an Aquinas Angel for us and help us reach our $250,000 goal.

I thank you for taking the time to read my message. I thank you all for your support throughout these ten wonderful years. Whatever happens, I am grateful for having had the privilege to know and serve you in our little way.

Ian

Oremus,

Saint Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host -
by the Divine Power of God -
cast into hell, satan and all the evil spirits,
who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Amen.

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More Catholic Classics On Sale

The publisher of the Knox Catholic Bible was so happy with the results of our sale that they are letting us extend the sale and add some other Catholic classics! This sale will only run from 2/26 through 2/27. All of the following titles are 15% off and will ship the first full week of March.

Knox Bible

The Imitation of Christ

The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ

The Way of Perfection

True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin

The Holy Mass

The Rule of St. Benedict

Douay Rheims Bible with Leather Cover

Most other items now 25% off

 

 

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Ten years ago, after building catholicstore.com into the largest on-line Catholic retail presence and finding myself out of work, I decided to be completely foolish and open my own Catholic e-commerce store. This post is a list of the major errors I made in running the business in no particular order. I hope they help you with your business.

Back in 1999 when I first considered opening a Catholic store in the event that Y2K turned out to be a very expensive joke, my aunt came up with the store name, Aquinas and More. I ended up working at The Catholic Store in Denver for two years instead, before finally launching the business. I learned a lot about programming and e-commerce during that time and thought I could handle running my own company.

Aquinas and More opened on the Feast of St. Therese in 2002 in a 144 square foot office in Black Forest, Colorado. My mom and I and a family friend spent most of our time adding product to the website because we weren’t really getting many orders. In fact, the printer would automatically spit out orders as they were placed so we always jumped to the printer whenever we heard it warm up: “Look! We just sold TWO books!” Because of the Iraq War, our sales of military / St. Christopher medals took off and the Fulton Sheen Wartime Prayerbook became our hottest selling item. We sold several hundred.

After one year in our tiny space, the new owner of our office complex decided to turn it into a day spa and we were asked to leave. Fortunately, a Catholic Realtor happened in to our store and asked if we had considered opening a retail store in Colorado Springs.

Mistake #1: Opening a retail store.

We found a nice location on one of the main roads in town in between two of the largest Catholic churches in town.

We hired a store designer that we found in the Catholic Marketing trade journal. Barney Paradise had designed a gorgeous store for Gloria Deo in Nebraska and he did a stellar job on our store. Our product mix was about 60% books and media, 20% jewelry and the remainder gifts and church supplies.

Our customers loved the store and we regularly received compliments about it. There was only one problem. In nine years the store never broke even. No matter what we did – bulletin ads, sponsoring local events, faithful shopper club, parish book fairs – nothing got our local sales over a plateau far below break even.

We shut the retail store at the end of 2012 but I really should have closed it five years earlier.

In hind sight we should never have opened the retail location. The retail store was a romantic dream that I had that I thought could be supported by a city of a half million. It proved to be a distraction from our web business and the costs far exceeded the return.

Mistake #2: Growing our selection faster than we grew our on-hand inventory.

Having the largest selection doesn’t mean anything if you can’t fulfill really fast. Amazon set expectations and we never were able to meet them because we spent too much time adding items to the website instead of figuring out how to fulfill orders faster. This resulted in a lower conversion rate because our site calculated shipping times that were longer than people found acceptable and resulted in a lot of time being spent by our customer service department answering questions about shipments that didn’t arrive immediately.

Mistake #3: Growing our staff instead of becoming more efficient.

In 2008 we had our best gross sales year – 1.7 million. We also had 12 full-time people on staff and at least three part time at different times of the year. We finished the year in the black by about $2,000. Payroll ate us for breakfast and then came back for seconds. Our fulfillment department had three full time and two part time people and was barely keeping up. After our 2008 Christmas season we reworked our receiving and shipping process and last year did 1.4 million in sales with one full-time, one part-time and occasional help from other employees. Payroll is the easiest budget item to let get out of control and between it and the taxes you pay on it, it can destroy your business.

Mistake #4: Not hiring a dedicated employee to handle church goods sales and expand the business.

In 2007 we launched catholicchurchsupply.com after seeing a lot of sales for church goods on aquinasandmore.com. Sales took off immediately and our church goods sales regularly accounted for 25-30% of our overall sales. In spite of this, we saw church supplies as a nice bonus instead of as a key part of the business. We should have hired someone to handle parish accounts and grow that business as a full time position. Instead, our church goods sales leveled off instead of taking off.

Mistake #5: Taking my eye off the ball to work on a side project.

In 2007 I spent most of the year working on new features for the website, the primary one being a sell-it-yourself market that would tie in to our regular site the way Amazon Z-shops (now the Amazon marketplace) does. the project was about 90% complete when I hit technical know-how wall and couldn’t finish the project. The feature never went live and a years worth of time that could have been spent fixing performance issues and bugs was lost.

Mistake #6: Not paying someone to fix some chronic technical issues with the website.

Our web site, fulfillment system and point-of-sale system were all written in house by me. This was a curse and a blessing. We could quickly add new features to the system and do things that no one else was doing – imprimatur information, military chaplain registries, real-time stock information – but it also meant that the system was only as good as my coding ability which on a scale of 1-10 probably never got above a 7. For an e-commerce site with thousands of daily visitors, a real coding pro was needed to take care of some of the bigger problems we had that regularly cost us because of wasted time.

Mistake #7: Accounting.

All I’m going to say here is that over a four year period, because of IRS penalties and various other accounting problems we lost about $160,000. Get a good accountant that you would trust with your life because you are basically trusting that person or firm with your business’s life.

Mistake #8: Taking partnerships for granted.

A couple of years ago we lost the traffic from a large Catholic site that had been a reliable partner for many years. The site was bought by someone else who changed the layout and dropped the links to our site without contacting us. I hadn’t been in regular contact with the site owners even though they sent us quite a bit of business and we sent them pretty good sized checks regularly. If I had, I would have know what was coming and possibly been able to make sure that that agreement stayed in place instead of just vanishing.

Mistake #9: Thinking that I could handle Google’s constantly changing search engine requirements internally forever.

For the first seven years of our business Google loved us. We sat at the top of the search results for all kinds of great keywords. Sometimes we would show up ahead of publisher websites! Then in November of 2009 we saw our first drop in year-to-year traffic ever. Up until then our traffic had been growing at about 30% a year. In 2010 our traffic dropped again. At this point, we should have had red-alert signals going off and hired someone outside the company to figure out why this was happening. Instead, I decided that we could fix the problem internally. On February 24, 2011 Google launched a new search engine algorithm called “Panda” and our already diminished search traffic dropped 60% overnight. Unfortunately, we were already experiencing a cash crunch that started in 2008 when our best year turned out to be wasted on payroll so I didn’t have the cash to go hire that SEO firm I should have hired a year and a half earlier.

We did a lot of internal cleanup on the website including getting rid of duplicate categories and eliminating about 1/3 of the categories on the site. In late October we saw our traffic jump back up to 2010 levels but we had lost a entire First Communion season and the beginning of the Christmas season.

In April of 2012 Google released another update called “Penguin” and our traffic crashed again. Google also informed us that we had unnatural links to our site so apart from the Penguin penalty we were being manually penalized. When Google says that a site has unnatural links it is because there is a pattern of links that look like they were created to “game” Google. In our entire history as a business we had only ever hired a link building company once. As soon as we saw the tactics they used, we had them take all the links down. After getting the notice from Google about our “unnatural” linking practices we did a hunt for any sites that looked suspicious that linked to us and created a spreadsheet. None of these sites were ones we ever had any dealings with. They were typically just huge lists of links to everything. We sent the spreadsheet to Google explaining this. Several weeks later we received a notice from Google that our penalty had been lifted and our traffic in August of 2012 shot back up 40% over 2011. We thought we may be on a path to recovery but in November our traffic started to fall again and by mid-December was back under our 2011 levels.

Moral of this long story: Google is no longer a place where amateurs can easily succeed. It also doesn’t seem to be a place where doing things honestly is the answer. In searching for a company to assist us with our traffic problems I found plenty of places that used all sorts of schemes including creating fake people on-line to promote the business, links to the site from sketchy looking blogs but very few that I would consider grounded in honest practices. Most companies that offer search engine services charge between $2,000 and $5,000 a month which is a lot of money for a small business to sink into making Google like them.

So where are we?

Right now we are looking at several possible outcomes for the business. We are talking to possible investors. We are talking about selling the company and we are running a crowd funding campaign where YOU can help us save Aquinas and More. Will you make a pledge and become an Aquinas Angel?

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Save 15% on the Knox Bible


In honor of the 125th Anniversary of Fr. Ronald Knox’s birth, we are offering the newly-reprinted Knox Catholic Bible for 15% off in a special promotion with Baronius Press.

In the high-ceilinged library of an English manor house one rainy day [in 1948], a bony, white-haired priest in an oversized clerical collar tapped away at a portable typewriter. From time to time he paused to knock the ashes out of his pipe against the fireplace or consult one of the fat books stacked on the massive antique table before him. At last he stood up, pulled the paper from his typewriter and closed his reference books with a ceremonious bang. His nine-year labour was finished. Monsignor Ronald Knox had completed his translation of the Catholic Bible.

Time Magazine 1948

The translation of the Bible by Ronald Knox was officially made at the request of the Bishops of England and Wales, although Knox had wanted to try his hand at updating the language of the Bible for some time.

It had been the desire of a succession of bishops for almost a 100 years to create a new Bible translation to replace the Douay Rheims edition. This Bible which had served English speaking Catholics since the time of the reformation had undergone several revisions, but was filled with archaic language, making it incomprehensible in a few places.

Originally, it was hoped that Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman, the most famous convert to Catholicism of the 19th Century would translate the Bible, but this project was never begun. In his book, The Idea of a University, Blessed John Henry Newman pointed out the “great difficulty in combining the two necessary qualities, fidelity to the original and purity in the adopted vernacular.”

Although the Douay translation was much loved and gave many passages of Holy Scripture that are still well-known today, it was felt that the translation was too difficult to understand. A new translation would bring the gospel message to a much wider audience.

“Ronald Knox was the most original and eloquent writer of the century.”

Fr. George Rutler

“Knox was a bright star whose work was unflaggingly wise, urbane, witty and all done in the purest prose imaginable.”

Thomas Howard

 

The English bishops gave him permission to start just before World War II broke out. It was initially planned that he would report his work to a team of evaluators, but the wartime difficulty of communication made that impractical, so he worked entirely on his own. When it came out after the war, there was some predictable criticism from people who liked either the King James version or Challoner’s revision of the Douay-Rheims. Knox even wrote a small booklet to explain how he had gone about translating the Bible in order to placate the critics.

Msgr. Knox had a profound love for Sacred Scripture, a passion was to make the Bible accessible to as many people as possible … In the Knox translation, clarity is paramount.

Dr. Scott Hahn

Praiseworthy achievement … a monument of many years of patient study and toil.

Ven. Pope. Pius XII

 

Knox’s bible also received great acclaim when it was first published. Time magazine called Knox the “man who made the great 20th century bible.”

Even the Archbishop of Canterbury of the time recommended it, and it became the preferred translation of Fulton Sheen. The Bishops were so pleased with the completed version that it was authorized for liturgical use, and the Knox translation of the Bible was used as the official version in the churches of Great Britain, Ireland and Australia for the decade leading up to Vatican II – and the first version sanctioned for liturgical use in England and Wales.

Get the Knox Bible for 15% off.

This is a limited time offer that ends on 2/21/13.

The Knox Bible is the ideal translation for those looking to deepen their understanding of the Holy Scriptures. It was hailed as the finest translation of the 20th Century, approved for liturgical use and was endorsed by Pope Pius XII, Archbishop Fulton Sheen and many more.

In the early 20th century, Msgr. Ronald Knox embarked on an entirely new English Bible. He wanted a Bible that did not merely translate the original but made it read as if an Englishman had written it. His translation is spiritual and literary, graceful and lyrical, making it one of the most beautiful vernacular versions of the Holy Bible.

OREMUS – Westminster Cathedral Magazine (Dec 2012 Edition, Number 176)

“Ronald Knox’s translation of the Bible has for too long been a forgotten masterpiece of twentieth-century English Catholicism. It is a last flourishing of that hundred years, the Second Spring, that produced so many great Catholic writers: Newman, Chesterton, Greene, Waugh and many others.”

Supremacy and Survival: The English Reformation

I think Knox achieved what he set as his goal in the Epistles; he comments on the length of St. Paul’s sentences and he manages that length well, bringing clarity to some difficult passage of the Epistles. This is a beautiful edition of The Holy Bible and one I look forward to using in my devotions for the Year of Faith!

The unique features of the Knox Bible are:

  • Translated from the Latin Vulgate and compared with the Greek and Hebrew texts single handedly by Ronald Knox over nine years.
  • Uses timeless English, which is both sacral and reverent.
  • Set in a single-column format with verse references placed at the side of the text in order to provide a clear and easily readable Bible.
  • The full Bible is now available again for the first time in over 50 years, in an edition from Baronius Press, beautifully bound in leather with gilt edges.
  • Included with this new edition is a paperback edition of On Englishing the Bible (5.5″ x 8″, 72 pages) in which Msgr. Knox describes his account of the ordeal, which manages to be both illuminating and full of his wit. Anyone wishing to know more about Knox’s translation – and the problems involved in rendering the sacred Scriptures into the vernacular – will be fascinated to hear from the translator himself how he tackled this mammoth project.

Download PDF Sample Page

Point size vs. x-Height

  • The point size of a typeface (Font Size) is a measure of its overall height, from the top of the tallest character above the baseline to the longest descender below the baseline.
  • x-Height refers to the distance between the baseline that letter sits on and the top of the lower case x (the source of the term) and mid-section of lower case letters

The x-height is what really makes a difference to readability, not font size.

 

Get the Knox Bible for 15% off.

This is a limited time offer that ends on 2/21/13.

C. S. Lewis called him “the wittiest man in Europe,” and Ronald Knox was a deft apologist, an astute translator of the Bible, and the preacher for occasions great and small throughout the first half of the twentieth century in England.

Born in 1888, as the sixth child of the Anglican Bishop of Manchester, he grew up in what he called “that form of Protestant piety which the modern world half regrets, half derides as ‘old-fashioned.'” By the time he was 12 he was already writing Latin poetry.

Having won almost every attainable honour at Oxford, at just 24, Knox became the Anglican chaplain of Oxford’s Trinity College. While he seemed to be content with preaching, talking, and writing, his soul was not at peace.

Five years later, in 1917, Ronald Knox resigned and entered the Roman Catholic Church. “Authority played a large part in my belief,” he said later. In Knox’s case, his break with the Church of England also meant a permanent break with his father, who had previously regarded him as his favourite son.

Knox was ordained to the priesthood, and soon he was back at Oxford, this time as a Catholic chaplain. Father Knox for 13 years made his rooms a gathering place for the university’s most glittering wits. While he was there, he began churning out acclaimed and smoothly written detective novels (six within ten years) such as ‘The Body in the Silo’ and ‘The Viaduct Murder’, which helped supplement his modest chaplaincy funds.

Towards the end of his chaplaincy at Oxford in 1939, Evelyn Waugh recounted that Knox was at a low ebb. At that point the English hierarchy commissioned Knox to single-handedly translate the New Testament.  From the beginning Knox assumed he would complete the entire Bible, which led to misunderstandings with the hierarchy, which were magnified by some opposition to the translation as it progressed. To complete the arduous task, Knox accepted the offer of the young converts, Lord and Lady Aston to retreat to their tranquil country hall, Aldenham Park.

There, with hands on his trusted typewriter and pipe in mouth, he produced on average twenty-four translated verses a day. He would not emerge until nine years later, when finally in the Autumn of 1948, the final verses were completed.

Knox’s bible received great acclaim when it was first published. Time magazine called Knox the “man who made the great 20th century bible.”

Knox died in 1957 with many high honours attached to his name, having become a Fellow of both Trinity and Balliol colleges, and a Protonotary Apostolic to Pope Pius XII.

© Ian King, Flickr

Get the Knox Bible for 15% off.

This is a limited time offer that ends on 2/21/13.

 

 

 

 

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Since Pope Benedict announced his resignation yesterday (I can’t believe it was only yesterday), two apocalyptic  items keep getting mentioned. First are the prophecies of St. Malachy. These prophesies supposedly describe every pope from the time of St. Malachy until the end of the world. According to those prophesies, Pope Benedict XVI was the second-to-the-last pope. Unfortunately for those who really want Armageddon to start in their lifetimes, these prophecies were first discovered more than 300 years after St. Malachy’s death and the prophecies have a curious characteristic. the verses about each pope up until the time of their discovery are very easy to decipher. The verses about popes after the time they were discovered are much more vague. Could they be real? Sure. Do I think they are? No.

The second apocalyptic sign that people like to bring up is an architectural feature inside the St. Paul Outside the Walls Basilica in Rome. This glorious church was begun in the fourth century and was still being expanded and embellished into the thirteenth century. St. Paul is buried in the church and it is called “Outside the Walls” because it was built outside of the fortified wall around Rome. During the ninth century a defensive wall was built around the basilica to protect it from invaders. The original church burned down in 1823 but was rebuilt exactly as before using as much of the original material as possible.

St. Paul Outside the Walls - oracle of the end of the world?

St. Paul Outside the Walls – oracle of the end of the world?

Apart from the amazing collection of architectural styles from Byzantine to Baroque that adorn this church, the walls throughout the church are decorated with medallions featuring all of the popes from Peter to Benedict XVI. Each medallion has the pope’s name in Latin and the dates of his papacy. There is a legend that when all of the spots are full, the world will end. I have heard from many people that there are either no remaining spaces or only one left. Fortunately for anyone who is very worried that we are down to our last pope and thinks that this church proves it, I can give your worries a little rest. Thanks to this virtual tour of St. Paul Outside the Walls, you can clearly see that there are at least five empty medallions on the wall. Pope Benedict’s medallion is in the spotlight behind the pillar.

St. Paul Outside the Walls says there will be at least five more popes.

St. Paul Outside the Walls says there will be at least five more popes.

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Save 20% on In Stock Books and Gifts

We’re having a 20% off sale through next Tuesday. Most in stock items are on sale at Aquinas and More!

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First Communion Preview – Are You Ready?

Easter is early so First Communion Season is too!

It really is amazing how quickly time passes. Advent and Christmas flew by and even though our family could technically claim to be keeping our droopy Christmas tree up to honor the Christmas season to the bitter end on Candlemas, we’re really just trying to arrange a time for some friends to take it away to feed to their goats. Yes, goats will eat just about everything.
Anyway, we realized that Lent is only three weeks away which means that if you are in anyway involved with a First Communion this year, it’s time to start planning.
The first thing you will need to do is think about, if your parish is like many, is pick out a First Communion banner kit.

“Wonderful kit; fun project. A lot of ability to individualize/customize, so two of the same kit could look considerably different. Glue provided ran out; otherwise, perfect!” – G&G’sMom in RI

Fortunately, you don’t have to come up with something completely on your own. We carry a variety of pre-cut felt First Communion banner kits that make this project very simple. Even if you don’t need a kit, you should watch the cute video of our daughter assembling one.
The First Communion dress that my daughters have worn was worn by my sister and by our Mom. We even have a framed set of my Mom and sister in the dress. A First Communion dress doesn’t have to be a use once and send to Goodwill item. Like a family baptismal gown, an heirloom First Communion dress can be passed down from generation to generation.
At Aquinas and More we are proud to carry heirloom quality gowns made of linen, cotton, silk that have been hand-sewn by a true artist’s hand right here in the United States. Each gown is made to order so you need to plan four to six weeks ahead. Take a look at these fine heirloom gowns that will be a family treasure for generations.
If your daughter has an American Girl-sized doll, she can have a matching dress made as well.
Once you have these two “long-term planning” items taken care of, you can think about an appropriate gift.
See the sidebar for suggestions >>

First Communion Best-sellers

Faith Notes

Upcoming Feasts and Events

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Bishop John Carrol

Bishop John Carrol

Bishop and Archbishop of Baltimore, John Carrol was a relative of Charles Carrol, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Bishop Carrol was named the bishop of Baltimore in 1789 by Pope Pius VI. During his tenure, because of death and illness among other United States bishops, he was forced to oversee the dioceses of New York, Philadelphia, Louisianna and the Danish West Indies.

A Prayer for the Government

We pray, Thee O Almighty and Eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ hast revealed Thy glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Thy mercy, that Thy Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Thy Name.

We pray Thee, who alone art good and holy, to endow with heavenly knowledge, sincere zeal, and sanctity of life, our chief bishop, Pope N., the Vicar of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the government of his Church; our own bishop, N., all other bishops, prelates, and pastors of the Church; and especially those who are appointed to exercise amongst us the functions of the holy ministry, and conduct Thy people into the ways of salvation.

We pray Thee O God of might, wisdom, and justice! Through whom authority is rightly administered, laws are enacted, and judgment decreed, assist with Thy Holy Spirit of counsel and fortitude the President of these United States, that his administration may be conducted in righteousness, and be eminently useful to Thy people over whom he presides; by encouraging due respect for virtue and religion; by a faithful execution of the laws in justice and mercy; and by restraining vice and immorality. Let the light of Thy divine wisdom direct the deliberations of Congress, and shine forth in all the proceedings and laws framed for our rule and government, so that they may tend to the preservation of peace, the promotion of national happiness, the increase of industry, sobriety, and useful knowledge; and may perpetuate to us the blessing of equal liberty.

We pray for his excellency, the governor of this state, for the members of the assembly, for all judges, magistrates, and other officers who are appointed to guard our political welfare, that they may be enabled, by Thy powerful protection, to discharge the duties of their respective stations with honesty and ability.

We recommend likewise, to Thy unbounded mercy, all our brethren and fellow citizens throughout the United States, that they may be blessed in the knowledge and sanctified in the observance of Thy most holy law; that they may be preserved in union, and in that peace which the world cannot give; and after enjoying the blessings of this life, be admitted to those which are eternal.

Finally, we pray to Thee, O Lord of mercy, to remember the souls of Thy servants departed who are gone before us with the sign of faith and repose in the sleep of peace; the souls of our parents, relatives, and friends; of those who, when living, were members of this congregation, and particularly of such as are lately deceased; of all benefactors who, by their donations or legacies to this Church, witnessed their zeal for the decency of divine worship and proved their claim to our grateful and charitable remembrance. To these, O Lord, and to all that rest in Christ, grant, we beseech Thee, a place of refreshment, light, and everlasting peace, through the same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. Amen.

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Today I’ll be speaking with Joseph Bottum about his new book The Christmas Plains that is a kind of a memoir about Christmas growing up in South Dakota. I’ll also be speaking with Ralph Martin about his new book Will Many Be Saved?

This show is pre-recorded but you can still leave comments about this and upcoming shows on our comment line at 719-235-5045

You can also subscribe to our show on iTunes. Just search for the Behind the Counter under podcasts.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed the Story of the Other Wiseman on our radio show. We had company and family over which meant that there were about 20 people in the house and everyone was having a great time until our three year old threw up in the living room. Then one of my daughters decided that she didn’t want dessert and went to bed. Then one of our visitors said she didn’t feel well and Father drove her home. Oh, boy.

So instead of having a nice peaceful night on Christmas we got to deal with four cases of stomach flu and several loads of laundry. While cleaning up a set of sheets I looked up at the bathroom mirror and saw that one of our kids had stuck a window cling of the crucifixion on it. I know that some people see signs from God regularly. I don’t, but that night I was clearly reminded of the saying “no creche without the cross”.

Today is January 5th, the Feast of St. John Neumann. John Neumann was born in Bohemia in 1811. In 1835 John Neumann expected to be ordained but his bishop decided that there were too many priests in the diocese so he halted all ordinations. Wouldn’t it be nice to be faced with that problem today?

John Neumann searched all over Europe for a bishop to ordain him and was turned down everywhere. While waiting for ordination John worked in a factory with workers who spoke English and learned it in the process so he sent letters to all the bishops in America asking if any would take him. The bishop of New York agreed and ordained him for the diocese of New York in 1836. At the time the diocese had 36 priests serving 200,000 Catholics. Fr. Neumann’s parish stretched from Lake Ontario in the North all the way to Pennsylvania in the South. His parish church didn’t have a steeple or a floor but he spent most of his time traveling between towns saying Mass in kitchens and sleeping in taverns.

Because of his isolation from the rest of the diocese he joined the Redemptorists with his bishop’s permission. In 1848 he became the Provincial Superior of the United States and was appointed the bishop of Philadelphia in 1852. He was the first bishop in the United States to organize a diocesan school system and during his time in Philadelphia he doubled the number of schools to 200. In order to help with a huge influx of immigrants he also embarked on an extensive church building project that produced about one new parish a month for the city.

If you sometimes think that the Catholic Church is besieged in this country today, in bishop Neumann’s time he had to contend with the Know-Nothings – a violent anti-Catholic political party that set fire to convents and churches. Because of the violence, he petitioned Pope Pius IX to let him resign but the pope refused.

In 1854 he was present in Rome of for the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1860 at the age of 48 Bishop Neumann dropped dead in the street while running errands. He died from a stroke.

He was beatified during the Second Vatican Council by Pope Paul VI in 1963 and was canonized in 1977.

You will usually see St. Neumann pictured in art wearing a red cape and sometimes holding a church or school.

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Just the Facts, Ma’am – The Theotokos

Theotokos

Who: The Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as Theotokos (Greek for “God-bearer”, “the one who gives birth to the one who is God”). The title Theotokos was decreed at the Council of Ephesus in 431 to counter the Nestorians who believed that Mary was only the mother of his human nature, and not his divine nature. Mary was affirmed as Theotokos because Jesus is both God and man. Theotokos is usually paraphrased as  “Mother of God”, for whom this Feast honors.

What:   A major Feast Day in honor of Mary’s divine motherhood to Christ, the second person of the Holy Trinity. The earliest records of such a Feast Day were first celebrated in the East shortly after the Council, and they indicate it was around Christmas. By the 7th century, the Feast was on January 1, called the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

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